“In the Hospital Waiting” by Terry Martin

Terry Martin


When the nurse brought you a surgery cap,
you put it on, leaving a few blonde wisps
sticking out near your left ear, golden straw
poking from an otherwise tidy bale, and
I wanted to walk across the airless room,
reach out and gently tuck those stray strands
behind your familiar ear, until every hair
on your head was safely encased under clear plastic
where it belonged, I wanted to lean across
the silver pole, tubes, wires, and hold you close,
cup your left breast one last time, look deep into
your determined eyes, reminding you I’m right here
but the nurse was standing there, ready to go,
and, hardly recognizable gowned and capped,
you were already far away somehow, and
didn’t want tenderness, not then, not there,
so instead I said You missed a spot,
watched you tuck loose strands under elastic,
containing it all, said Good luck as she wheeled you away
toward anesthesia, breathing tube, scalpel
and I’m waiting now, waiting,
while they excise seeds we hope haven’t grown,
sitting here thinking of your unruly hair,
of those parts of you that resist taming.

from Rattle #22, Winter 2004

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